Kent State volleyball defeats rival Akron in four sets


Kent State Volleyball

Evan Hablitzel

Kent State (9-6, 2-0) led The University of Akron (5-9, 0-2) 24-19 during the match’s first set. A few miscues later, the Flashes were up only one at 24-23.

Head coach Don Gromala then called timeout. Senior opposite hitter Kelsey Bittinger made note of the much-needed breather.

“It really gave us a second to compose ourselves,” Bittinger said, following the match. “Take a little break, get back into the groove, and do exactly what we know how to do.”

The senior opposite hitter may have benefited most from Gromala’s decision to call a timeout. Immediately following the break, Bittinger delivered a kill assisted by senior setter Katarina Kojic, sealing the first set for the Flashes (25-23).

The match’s second set saw Akron dominate the net. The Zips racked up four blocks and ended the set with only three attack errors en route to a set victory (25-21). Kent State’s attack again struggled, hitting just .146 in the set following a hitting percentage of .150 in the first.

Going into the match’s crucial third set, Gromala knew his team had to match Akron’s physicality at the net.

“(Akron) did a really good job with the way they played. We weren’t really trying to challenge them at the net too much. I think offensively, as well, you saw our hitting percentages were low,” Gromala said, following the match. “We kind of talked about embracing the net play and being more physical up there.”

Whatever Gromala said, it certainly resonated with his team. The Flashes dominated the net during the pivotal third set with four blocks, while Akron finished with none. Kent State’s hitting percentage soared to .379 thanks to the physical play.

“Most of it started with our serves,” Gromala said. “We served tougher got some easier opportunities defensively to get some counter attacks in transition and get some good swings.”

Bittinger finished the third set with five kills on nine total attacks and two digs, as well. She finished the night with a team-high 17 kills, 14 digs and a .356 hitting percentage. She gave the team’s back row all the credit.

“Our back row really killed it tonight. They played well the whole night and … really gave us a lot of opportunities,” Bittinger said. “Throughout the night our hitters got a lot better because of the open court and what Akron was doing.”

Sophomore opposite hitter Lexi Mantas played a huge role in the final set, finishing with six kills and a block.

“We put her in there for blocking and she did a great job,” Gromala said. “She also picked us up offensively, too, and swung hard.”

The match’s fourth set turned out to be its final. The Flashes took the set 25-16, earning the 3-1 match victory, their fifth consecutive win.

The Flashes next match at the M.A.C. Center is Saturday, Oct. 8, against Central Michigan University.

Evan Hablitzel is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].